Accessing Nursing Home Patient Records

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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The Importance of Medical Records

Medical records, whether requested from a hospital, clinic or nursing facility, are important documents to have – especially when something has gone wrong and loved ones are trying to figure out what happened. The records might show that an error occurred and expose the medical facility to liability. That’s what a recent article in USA Todayreported. The article focused on a California women who lost a loved one.

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Stalling Tactics

According to the article, a woman’s adult son was being treated at the Fairchild Medical Center in Yreka, California for a drug overdose. The nursing staff told her that his condition was stable. However, seven hours later – he died. Shocked, she requested her son’s medical records, but the medical center ignored her requests until six years later. The records showed that her son’s blood pressure had dropped dangerously low – something that should have been addressed by the medical center staff to save his life.

The woman lost her ability to sue the medical center because California’s three year statute of limitations had already expired. Was the medical center’s timing just coincidence? Industry analysts don’t think so and say that these stalling tactics are used all the time in hopes that the person(s) requesting the information will simply give up or that the statute of limitations will expire before a claim can be filed.

While honest clerical mistakes do occur, patients should not have to wait more than a reasonable amount of time.

Tips on How to Get Medical Records

  1. Be polite, yet firm, when requesting records.
  2. Identify the name of the person in charge of providing the records.
  3. Put your request in writing and send it certified mail to the person in charge.
  4. Follow up as many times as necessary in writing.
  5. Document every conversation you have with the person in charge or anyone else at the facility.
  6. When all else fails, consider contacting an attorney to act on your behalf.

To view the full USA Today article, go to: www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-04-29-medical-records_N.htm.

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